Universities throughout the United States are undergoing a lot of changes. Students are marching across campuses, holding signs and yelling slogans. They even stand in lines for hours to get what they want, and the impending changes will affect them directly. Yes, changes are coming, changes that will forever transform the structure of… college basketball.
If you were expecting something about the administration or systems of governance, think again. Basketball season is in full swing, and come March, students, faculty, administrators and trustees alike will all be equal before the inscrutable whims of the tournament bracket. The basketball gods do not discriminate, they do not communicate and they do not share governance.
But don’t trivialize the impact of shifts in the college basketball structure. When it comes to running a university, decisions concerning the boards can be just as important as decisions concerning the boardroom. We’re in the midst of a great athletic conference shakeup, one that presents special opportunities for Saint Louis University.
The Big East is in trouble, as the seven Catholic schools that do not play football have decided to bail from the venerable conference. These schools—Georgetown, Villanova, Seton Hall, St. John’s, Providence, Marquette and DePaul— plan to set up their own conference.
Catholic school. No football team. Sound familiar? Indeed, SLU has been named as one of the schools that might make a good fit for the nascent conference. Two others that have been mentioned are Xavier and Butler.
Speaking of Butler, their men’s squad will be entering Chaifetz Arena tonight as a top-10 basketball team. Highly-ranked teams are a rarity in Chaifetz, but with a conference realignment, that could change. SLU has a surging basketball program, and the Billikens need to face opponents of a high caliber if we are to continue that progress.
Not only would a tougher conference help to make the Billikens more competitive nationally, but it would also be good for school spirit. Student tickets for the Butler game were snatched up immediately. Even when a game will inevitably test the mettle of the Billikens, students get excited to watch good teams play good basketball on our campus. It’s hard to get excited about a game against Northeast State Technical Institute South or some such unknown team; a hard-fought loss against a strong opponent is still better than a blowout against a nobody. And the Billikens have repeatedly shown that they can win against strong teams, so we should give them chances to do so.
Ultimately, the conference shakeups come down to money. Given the teams listed above, even without Xavier or Butler, there will almost certainly be more money in the new conference than in the Atlantic 10. Yet if SLU wants a piece of that pie, it needs to bring some ingredients. That means that students need to get out there and cheer on the Billikens. Watch the games on TV. Show support for all of our athletic teams and be proud of your school.
Whatever happens in the conference realignment, we have full confidence in our sports teams to continue improving and performing at high levels. We hope that the men’s basketball team will do just that against Butler tonight—and we hope that you’ll all be there to cheer them on. Let’s go Bills.